Ahead of the High Representative’s upcoming visit to Moscow, Amnesty International is writing to urge the EU to take robust and public action to support those in Russia who courageously defend human rights in the face of spiralling levels of repression. It will be crucial that the High Representative uses this visit to send a strong signal that empowers civil society and counters any perception that business with the EU continues as usual while the Russian authorities orchestrate a wide-scale clampdown on human rights and dissent.
1) Using the meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov to raise serious concerns about the crackdown on human rights and seek tangible commitments from the Russian authorities towards:
- The immediate and unconditional release of Aleksei Navalny and the opening of a criminal investigation into his poisoning,ensuring all those responsible are brought to justice in fair trial proceedings.
- The immediate and unconditional release of all peaceful protesters and other civil society activists who have been arrested and detained for spurious administrative “offences” or prosecuted on spurious criminal chargessolely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly: This includes journalists, lawyers, opposition activists and other civil society actors, including the staff members and associates of Aleksei Navalny and his Anti-Corruption Foundation.
- The immediate and unconditional release of all other prisoners of conscience detained solely for exercising their rights, including in previous years.
- Opening effective investigations into reported cases of use of unlawful force by law enforcement authoritiesagainst peaceful protesters during the 23 and 31 January, and earlier protests.
- Repealing recently adopted legislation which introducessweeping new restrictions on independent civil society, the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and access to online information: Russia should review and bring its legislation in line with international human rights law and the country’s own Constitution.
- Reviewing and bringing in line with international human rights law, other laws that are used to restrict freedom of expression, including Russia’s ‘fake news’, counter-extremism and counter-terrorism legislation.
- Ending criminal prosecutions against HRDs and activists, under the Law on “foreign agents” and the Law on “undesirableorganisations” with the aim of abolishing these laws as soon as possible.
2) Publicly raising concern about the clampdown on human rights and dissent in the country while also expressing strong and unambiguous support for human rights defenders and underlining the important role they play in Russia: In addition to deploring the politically motivated detention of Aleksei Navalny and the crackdown on peaceful protesters, journalists and other civil society activists, the High Representative’s public statements should raise concern about the recently adopted legislation imposing new restrictions on human rights defenders and independent civic activism in Russia and confirm that these issues were addressed in the meetings with his Russian counterparts.
3) Ensuring that a variety of human rights defenders, including recently targeted lawyers and journalists are involved in the foreseen meeting with civil society and that the meeting is visibly publicized with consent of the participants: The High Representative should likewise ensure that concerns raised by human rights defenders, inform the EU’s engagement with the Russian authorities during this trip and beyond. This would be an important gesture of support to Russia’s embattled civil society and to those facing reprisals for exercising their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. It would offer further legitimacy to the important work they do and would help to counter the stigmatization they regularly face.
4) Reaffirming that respect for human rights and a thriving, independent civil society are central to the EU’s engagement with Russia at all levels and in all fields of cooperation.
Photo by Ute Weinmann